Rebellious Cats

Sometimes it can feel like trying to convince a cat that it should not scratch the furniture. When we had a cat, no amount of trying to reason with him worked at all. We reasoned with a spray bottle. We reasoned with catnip. No matter what we did, the cat just went on clawing the furniture. Often he would sit there looking at you and when you finally looked at him, while gazing into your eyes, he would claw the couch. Well, stupid cat. But I wonder if we don’t act a little like a cat; daring God to do anything about our rebellion; refusing to hear his pleading. And I wonder if God doesn’t try to reason with us even when he knows full well it won’t do any good. I wonder.

Following the glory of the throne room scene, there is the commission of Isaiah scene in Isaiah 6:8-13. But this commission feels a bit off. Isaiah, having had his lips burned clean, hears Adonai say, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” The word “send” means commission. Who will the master send on a commission? Much has been made of the plural “us.” But divine royal language is often in the plural. Not to mention, we know that God is not all by himself in the throne room. The “us” can refer to the heavenly court; the Seraphim. So who will walk (go, travel) for heaven? The important thing is Isaiah’s response “here I am, commission me!” Did he understand the magnitude of the commission? Well, most likely not. Who does? The important thing is the willingness and the commitment to see it through.

Then God tells him to walk and tell this people. The commission is a traveling commission. The people will not come to Isaiah. He has to walk to them. And what is the message? Keep on listening without discerning the truth; keep on looking without comprehending. So, this is not a call to a successful commission. But it’s more than that even. Isaiah is commanded to make their hearts grow fat or insensitive. There are several ways to view this. I think Isaiah is being commissioned to walk out to and try to convince a bunch of cats. This will not encourage them to change. It will deepen their resolve to disobey. Their ears will become heavy or dull. Their eyes will be covered over or blinded. The goal, at this point is not their conversion. They have been found guilty and sentenced. The judgment is coming. The message is about the certainty of that judgment. And when they hear that God is going to judge them, their hearts will grow fat. There will not be a death bed conversion here. Things have progressed too far for that.

Once Isaiah understands the task at hand; that he will be sent to a bunch of unrepentant cats; he cried out “until when?” When Isaiah said “Here I am, send me” I don’t think he fully grasped what that calling meant. But, there is no attempt to back out; no aheming out of the task at hand. Just an “how long will I be doing this then?” And God lets him know that he will be walking and telling the people a message they don’t want to hear until the cities are crashed into ruins; until all of the inhabitants are gone; until all of the houses are empty; until the whole land has crashed into ruins; until Yahweh has removed the men to a far away land. Defeat and captivity are on the horizon. The message is bleak. Aren’t you glad you signed up Isaiah?

But there is hope. Most of the people will hear a message of judgment and it will harden them. But there will be a tenth portion; a remnant. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. This remnant will be burned clean. And it will serve as a reminder. What used to be a larger terebinth or an oak, both know for being strong large trees, will be nothing but stumps. All who see it will be reminded of what was. It will be holy, set apart, sacred and dedicated to God, but a stump nonetheless. And yet, there is still more hope than being a reminder to all who see of what could have been. A seed represents potential; the possibility of new growth. And the seed within this stump is sacred, having been burned clean.

The moral of the story is don’t be a bunch of rebellious, hard hearted cats. You see, if the Israelites had not cultivated a rebellious heart, they could have been a strong oak. But instead, when the judgment of God had run its course, there would be nothing but a stump. But that stump will contain a holy seed all full of potential. There is a that can be crossed with God; a line that brings judgment. He is slow to anger, but if that anger comes, judgment is the result. The good news is that God will always work through the remnant no matter how few. If a stump is all that is left to serve God, well, then that stump will contain a holy seed brimming with potential. And God can grow a whole forest of mighty oaks from that seed. Shalom.